When com­mu­ni­ca­tions giant Ver­izon wanted to figure out the most effec­tive ways to max­i­mize the impact of a K–12 edu­ca­tion web­site it has devel­oped, it knew whom to turn to: North­eastern University.

Thinkfinity.org—created by the Ver­izon Foundation—brings the resources of the Smith­sonian Insti­tu­tion, the Lit­eracy Net­work, ArtsEdge and other edu­ca­tional orga­ni­za­tions to teachers, par­ents and stu­dents, giving them free access to lit­eracy tools, edu­ca­tional games and classroom-​​ready lesson plans. The web­site mar­shals 21st-​​century tech­nology to improve K–12 edu­ca­tion and stu­dent achieve­ment across all sub­ject areas.

Now Ver­izon offi­cials are inter­ested in refining Thinkfinity’s tools so they align more closely with the needs of teachers and other users. That’s where the experts at North­eastern come in.

Richard Hanna and Scott Swain, both pro­fes­sors of mar­keting in the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion, will under­take a com­pre­hen­sive eval­u­a­tion of Think­finity using focus groups, teacher/​parent sur­veys, and a website-​​usability assess­ment. A $200,000 grant from Ver­izon will fund Hanna and Swain as they con­duct the research and ana­lyze the responses.

This project rep­re­sents a ter­rific example of how the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion can partner with com­pa­nies to sup­port their cor­po­rate social-​​responsibility mis­sions,” says Thomas Moore, the college’s dean.

Hanna and Swain say the project is aimed at “unlocking the mas­sive poten­tial” of Think­finity, adding they hope to uncover how the site can better ben­efit stu­dent learning and parental involve­ment in children’s education.

On August 10, North­eastern pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun wel­comed Donna C. Cupelo, regional pres­i­dent of Ver­izon New Eng­land, to campus and offi­cially received the $200,000 grant for the project.

By part­nering with North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, the Ver­izon Foun­da­tion will be able to better deter­mine how to max­i­mize web-​​based cur­riculum to advance ele­men­tary and sec­ondary learning,” says Cupelo. “This research also will help us with future web­site devel­op­ment, invest­ment and strategic decision-​​making around how to best serve the K–12 edu­ca­tion com­mu­nity with Thinkfinity.”

North­eastern and Ver­izon have built a strong rela­tion­ship over the years. Cur­rently, 282 alumni work at Ver­izon. In October 2009, the School of Law’s Domestic Vio­lence Insti­tute received a grant from the Ver­izon Foun­da­tion to sup­port domestic-​​violence sur­vivors in Massachusetts.

The Ver­izon alliance is just the latest in a series of cor­po­rate part­ner­ships North­eastern has entered into to expand research and experiential-​​learning opportunities.

For instance, the uni­ver­sity recently launched a co-​​op pro­gram with IBM to place stu­dents in busi­ness roles around the world. Another part­ner­ship with the San­tander Group will extend Northeastern’s Bach­elor of Sci­ence in Inter­na­tional Busi­ness pro­gram to Brazil.